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22 March 2008

Noam Chomsky at the United Nations, 6/5/06

Worth the Sacrifice? -- Nader on Five Years in Iraq

On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Bush's illegal war of aggression in Iraq, the Fabricator-in-Chief made a speech at the Pentagon, whose muzzled army chiefs had opposed his costly, ruinous adventure from the start for strategic, tactical and logistical reasons.

As benefits the dictatorial monarch of yesteryear, evicted by America's first patriots, this modern-day King George blistered the truth, somersaulted the facts and declared that a "strategic victory" in Iraq is near. He called the war "a just and noble cause." Sugarcoating the terrible, impoverished state of daily life in Iraq, he acknowledged "the high cost in lives and treasure," but said the recent situation in Iraq made it all worthwhile. "Worth the sacrifice" is how he put it often in previous statements.

At the same time, his V.P. his Prince Regent, Dick Cheney was having this exchange with ABC's Martha Raddatz:

Raddatz: "Two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting, and they're looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives."

Cheney: "So?"

Raddatz: "So--you don't care what the American people think?"

Cheney: "No," who then inaccurately wrapped Abraham Lincoln's stand during the Civil War around his relentless illegal warmongering in Iraq.

In an article called "Defining Victory Downward: No, the surge is not a success," columnist Michael Kinsley exposed the fatuous standards of comparison used by Bush and took his readers to standards back in 2003. Kinsley observed how Bush spouts success against conflicts and conditions that never existed before March 2003. There were no Al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq, no large scale sectarian carnage. There were modicum rudimentary public facilities and necessities, notwithstanding severe Clinton-Bush propelled economic sanctions, under dictator Saddam Hussein, instead of a devastated, riven nation of 4 million refugees and violent street anarchy.

At the same time that the rancidly redundant fictionalizations of reality in Iraq by Bush and Cheney were once again receiving front page attention at the New York Times and the Washington Post, protests on the downtown streets of Washington, D.C. and in scores of cities and communities around the country received subdued short articles deep inside these newspapers. Both remarked on the smaller turnout of marchers compared to the large demonstrations in 2003.

This decline should not be surprising. Most people are trying to communicate their concerns, and their repeatedly accurate warnings about the impacts of this war of aggression to a wider audience. But the mainstream media, often hardly working on weekends, never gave these outpourings the attention they deserved (even though American public opinion was behind their call to end the war-occupation and said that the war was not worth the cost to America in lives and dollars).

Fortunately, along came a Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, with a new detailed book titled The Three Trillion Dollar War, (W.W. Norton) to inform the American people just how right they are about the long term cost of Bush's messianic reckless pursuit launched on a platform of lies, distortions and cover-ups.

The twisted defiance of Bush, the cowardliness of the majority Democrats in Congress and the frustration and powerlessness felt by sensitive Americans who see no light at the end of the Iraq tunnel leaves little room for citizens to gain control of their runaway government.

There is a possible way to turn the tide in favor of ending this illusion of "victory" and the occupation that breeds its own opposition in Iraq.

Unlike before or during any other war in our nation's history, hundreds of former high military, national security-intelligence and diplomatic officials have spoken, written, testified and some even marched against Bush's tragic folly--before and after the March 2003 invasion.

These retired public servants include generals and anti-terrorism specialists who worked inside the Bush Administration. Taken as a whole, were they to aggregate their standing and influence before the American people by banding together as a group, their cumulative impact on Congress, on galvanizing and focusing public opinion during this election year could well turn this deteriorating situation around.

These patriotic Americans, with their experience in battles, conflicts and geopolitical tensions, coupled with their desire to wage peace for a change in Washington's policies, could be the catalyst that spells the difference. Compared with Bush and Cheney, successful draft-dodgers during their Pro-Vietnam war past, they make for quite a credible contrast.

Will they mobilize themselves for the common good and provide the new dynamic needed?

Time will tell.

Ralph Nader is the author of The Seventeen Traditions

Lots of New Links under Worthy Endeavors in the Left Nav

I kept putting in "(NEW)" tags, but it looked silly. More new links than not, so check it out -- scroll down to see that section.

Bob Dylan Videos

21 March 2008

The Carbon Age: How Life's Core Element Has Become Civilization's Greatest Threat

Excellent book I've already read (Eric's a friend of mine). Dig it: click the title of the post for more info.

Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming

The noted NASA scientist who's stood up to the Bush administration's oily attack on science.

The guests:

20 March 2008

Five interesting quotes that are Wright-on

Warning: These are all by Americans of dubious value, as you will see. I finish with excerpts by a speech of Lincoln, the "brand" which the Obama PR machine has most obviously tried to co-opt.

  • "God damn the U.S. for its vile conduct in the Philippine Isles." -- William James, philosopher, psychologist, 1902.
  • "We have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages, and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors." -- Mark Twain, 1902, North American Review.
  • True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn't it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit's work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America's honor and blackened her face before the world. . . And as for a flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily managed. We can have a special one--our States do it: we can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones. -- Mark Twain, "To the One Who Sits in Darkness," 1901.
  • In taking military possession of Texas after annexation, the army of occupation, under General Taylor, was directed to occupy the disputed territory. The army did not stop at the Nueces and offer to negotiate for a settlement of the boundary question, but went beyond, apparently in order to force Mexico to initiate war. It is to the credit of the American nation, however, that after conquering Mexico, and while practically holding the country in our possession, so that we could have retained the whole of it, or made any terms we chose, we paid a round sum for the additional territory taken; more than it was worth, or was likely to be, to Mexico. To us it was an empire and of incalculable value; but it might have been obtained by other means. The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times. -- U.S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, 1885.
  • I am now through the whole of the President's evidence; and it is a singular fact, that if any one should declare the President sent the army into the midst of a settlement of Mexican people, who had never submitted, by consent or by force, to the authority of Texas or of the United States, and that there, and thereby, the first blood of the war was shed, there is not one word in all the President has said, which would either admit or deny the declaration. This strange omission, it does seem to me, could not have occurred but by design. My way of living leads me to be about the courts of justice; and there, I have sometimes seen a good lawyer, struggling for his client's neck, in a desperate case, employing every artifice to work round, befog, and cover up, with many words, some point arising in the case, which he dared not admit, and yet could not deny. Party bias may help to make it appear so; but with all the allowance I can make for such bias, it still does appear to me, that just such, and from just such necessity, is the President's struggle in this case.... Now sir, for the purpose of obtaining the very best evidence, as to whether Texas had actually carried her revolution, to the place where the hostilities of the present war commenced, let the President answer the interrogatories, I proposed, as before mentioned, or some other similar ones. Let him answer, fully, fairly, and candidly. Let him answer with facts, and not with arguments. Let him remember he sits where Washington sat, and so remembering, let him answer, as Washington would answer. As a nation should not, and the Almighty will not, be evaded, so let him attempt no evasion--no equivocation.... But if he can not, or will not do this -- if on any pretence, or no pretence, he shall refuse or omit it, then I shall be fully convinced, of what I more than suspect already, that he is deeply conscious of being in the wrong that he feels the blood of this war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to Heaven against him. That originally having some strong motive -- what, I will not stop now to give my opinion concerning--to involve the two countries in a war, and trusting to escape scrutiny, by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory -- that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood--that serpent's eye, that charms to destroy he plunged into it, and has swept, on and on, till, disappointed in his calculation of the ease with which Mexico might be subdued, he now finds himself, he knows not where.... As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant he may be able to show, there is not something about his conscious, more painful than all his mental perplexity! -- Abraham Lincoln, Speech on the Mexican War, January 12, 1848. (Worth reading in full, by the way, to show how little things change in Washington.)

Video Primer on Israel/Palestine

Having posted a bunch of these Alternative Focus videos, I figured I'd make them all accessible here. Viewed together, they provide a powerful antidote to the daily propaganda on I/P foisted upon us.

Can anyone tell me whether Hill or Obama will dismantle current bases in Iraq?

This is not a rhetorical question: please let me know, "offline" or not.

Note the language on each candidates site:

In other words, this is all in the future tense. What about the billions (literally) that have been spent already? Are going to pull up the stakes?
  • Clinton to Bush: Get Congressional Approval Before Moving Forward on US-Iraq Security Agreement

    "'The President has ignored the American people's desire to end this war and is now engaging in a process that threatens to commit the United States to permanent bases in Iraq. This is unacceptable and I hope the President asks Congress to review this agreement. If he doesn’t, Congress must act.' ... And now, with this agreement, President Bush is attempting to create a long-term presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, including the possibility of establishing permanent bases there.
Senator Clinton has consistently opposed the creation of permanent bases in Iraq. In 2006, Congress placed a restriction on the use of any funds to establish bases in Iraq. Last week, Senator Clinton wrote President Bush to advise him that this agreement must not commit the United States to permanent bases in Iraq, and must include a commitment to the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Today she called for him to agree to get Congressional approval before completing the agreement.
President Bush has attempted to expand the power of the Executive Branch more than any President since World War II. Senator Clinton’s legislation reaffirms the fundamental constitutional principle of the separation of powers. It will prevent President Bush from thwarting the will of the American people by prolonging this war, while ensuring that our Constitution is respected."
In other words, the problem is separation of powers primarily. Note, though, the language: again, the notion that permanent bases are in the future ("...is now engaging in a process that threatens to commit the United States to permanent bases in Iraq."; "...including the possibility of establishing permanent bases there."; etc.) is patently false -- and not much better than Obama's position, which is also in cloud-cuckoo land.

But I do feel hope surging through my veins every time I gaze upon either candidate. They like me; they really, really like me.

Note Obama's reticence in 2006 on bases:
In such a scenario [i.e., Obama's version of "phased withdrawal"], it is conceivable that a significantly reduced U.S. force might remain in Iraq for a more extended period of time. But only if U.S. commanders think such a force would be effective; if there is substantial movement towards a political solution among Iraqi factions; if the Iraqi government showed a serious commitment to disbanding the militias; and if the Iraqi government asked us -- in a public and unambiguous way -- for such continued support. We would make clear in such a scenario that the United States would not be maintaining permanent military bases in Iraq, but would do what was necessary to help prevent a total collapse of the Iraqi state and further polarization of Iraqi society. Such a reduced but active presence will also send a clear message to hostile countries like Iran and Syria that we intend to remain a key player in this region.
OK, I get all the "ifs" here; note that what is left unsaid is what we will do about these bases (here still languishing in some subjunctive alternate universe) if none of these things come to pass. Or rather, the message was sent, and rather clearly. The last sentence is a carbon copy of Robert Gates' repeated mantra. Oh, yes: a world of difference.

Here's a good commentary from late February on the media and Democratic reaction, or lack thereof, to this key question -- dare I say, "litmus test"? Here's the key part:

Sadly, Democratic Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not co-sponsored a new bill, introduced by Representative Barbara Lee, preventing construction or maintenance of permanent military bases in Iraq. Obama and Clinton have been rather vague in terms of their plans for Iraq. Congress's 2008 Iraq spending bill included a requirement prohibiting any plans for permanent bases without Congressional approval; however, neither Clinton nor Obama even bothered to vote on this important bill, as they appeared more interested in campaigning than actively opposing the war.
Either candidate could have voted against the bill and expressed their commitment to cutting off funding for the war, or they could have voted in favor of funding for 2008, while at the very least supporting the bill's prohibition on permanent bases. Their refusal to support a funding cut off or a prohibition on bases raises serious questions their "anti-war" status. While both candidates rhetorically support some sort of short-term reduction in troops, they have been suspiciously opposed to plans for complete withdrawal. They claim to support a withdrawal of combat forces, yet support keeping thousands in Iraq for "counter-terror" operations, perhaps as late as 2012 (or later). How such troops will not constitute a sizable "combat force" in Iraq remains unclear.
By way of comparison, from HR 1234, Kucinich's bill:
    (1) The insurgency in Iraq has been fueled by the United States occupation and the prospect of a long-term presence as indicated by the building of permanent United States military bases.

    (2) A United States declaration of an intention to withdraw United States troops and close military bases will help dampen the insurgency which has been inspired to resist colonization and fight aggressors and those who have supported United States policy.

    (3) A United States declaration of an intention to withdraw United States troops and close military bases will provide an opening in which parties within Iraq and in the region can set the stage for negotiations toward a peaceful settlement in Iraq.
That's pretty unequivocal. As is the following, from 2004, by Nader:
Monday April 19, 2004
Washington, DC:

Today, Independent Presidential candidate Ralph Nader put forward a three-step approach to rapidly remove US military forces, civilian military contractors and US corporate interests from Iraq. "Every day the US military remains in Iraq we imperil US security, drain our economy, ignore our nation's domestic needs and prevent democratic self-rule from developing in Iraq, nor does the belligerent rhetoric of the Bush regime help the cause of moderates in Iraq." Nader said.

Nader made his statement amid calls by President Bush and Senator Kerry to "stay the course" despite increasing violence against US soldiers and US military contractors. "As has been demonstrated in recent weeks, US soldiers and civilians have become magnets for an expanding insurgency against US occupation of Iraq," Nader said. "The way to save US and Iraqi lives and reverse the escalating spiral of violence is for the United States to go back home. US presence serves as fuel for the insurrection, kidnapping, terrorism and anarchy. Since the occupation is increasingly turning mainstream Iraqis against the US; announcing a withdrawal and ending the corporate takeover of the Iraqi economy and oil resources will attract their support away from the insurgents."

Nader put forward a three-step process for removal of US troops.
  1. Development of an appropriate international peace-keeping force: Under the auspices of the United Nations an international peace keeping force, from neutral nations with such experience and from Islamic countries, should be assembled immediately to replace all US troops and civilian military contractors doing many jobs the Army used to do more efficiently. "Former General Wesley Clark described the Bush administration's foreign policy as 'cowboy unilateralism that goes against everything the United States is supposed to represent to the world,' noted Nader. "It is time for the US to return to the family of nations. The US will have to underwrite a significant portion of this less expensive short-term peacekeeping force since it was George W. Bush's illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq that has led to this quagmire."
  2. Support Iraqi self rule and free and fair elections: Free and fair elections should be held as soon as possible under international supervision so democratic self-rule can be put in place in Iraq. This will allow Iraq to develop legitimate self-government that will be able to provide for its own security. Nader recognized: "It is a challenge to bring democracy to Iraq, a country controlled by a brutal dictator, devastated by economic sanctions and torn apart by war. The complicated culture of Iraq, the split between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds makes consensus on a new government a challenge. A suitable framework of unity with allowance for reasonable autonomy would be a proper balance. But Iraq should be able to sort out these issues more easily without the military presence of a US occupying force and the projected 14 US military bases that Iraqis see as installing a puppet government fronting for an indefinite military and oil industry occupation."
  3. The US should provide humanitarian aid to Iraq to rebuild its infrastructure: The US invasion of Iraq and the long-term US-led economic sanctions against Iraqi civilians resulted in tremendous damage to people, their children and the Iraqi infrastructure. The US has a history of supporting Saddam Hussein. "Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was our government's anti-communist ally in the Middle East. Washington also supported him to keep Iran at bay with his army. In so doing, during the 1980s under Reagan and the first George Bush, corporations were licensed by the Department of Commerce to export the materials for chemical and biological weapons that President George W. Bush later accused him of having," said Nader. "Therefore, the US has a responsibility to the Iraqi people so Iraq can become a functioning nation again. However, we should not allow US oil and other corporations to profit from the illegal invasion and occupation of their country." Control over Iraqi oil and other assets should be exercised by Iraqis.
Nader noted the caution of former General Wesley Clark, who said: "President Bush plays politics with national security. Cowboy talk. The administration is a threat to domestic liberty." Nader urged the public to "free itself from the national security fear campaign of the Bush Administration and support a humanitarian conclusion to the Iraq episode."
Don't y'all worry your pretty little anti-war heads over anything: Saint Obama (or Dame Clinton) will be oh-so-much different than, say, McCain, on Iraq.

Fed Bailout of Bear Stearns First of its Kind Since Great Depression

From Democracy Now! --

The nation’s fifth largest investment bank Bear Stearns nearly collapsed last week. It was saved only after the Federal Reserve took extraordinary measures to help JPMorgan purchase the eighty-five-year-old firm. The Fed has become the lender of last resort for other investment banks in a move that marks one of the broadest expansions of the Fed’s lending authority since the 1930s. We speak with Nomi Prins, an author and former investment banker at Bear Stearns, and Max Fraad Wolff, an economist and writer.


  • Nomi Prins, former investment banker turned journalist. She used to run the European analytics group at Bear Stearns. She is the author of two books “Other People’s Money: The Corporate Mugging of America” and “Jacked: How "Conservatives” are Picking your Pocket." She is now a Senior Fellow at Demos.
  • Max Fraad Wolff, economist and writer. He is an instructor at the Graduate Program in International Affairs, New School University. He is a frequent contributor to Huffington Post, Asia Times and the Indypendent.

Orpheus in Nazareth


Arab Israeli citizens in Nazareth, Israel created Orpheus, a nonprofit group, to promote classical music among the Arab population in part because the Israeli government has been neglecting music education among their Arab population. Orpheus hires music teachers, trains students, and produces classical music concerts. Producer: Ed Sweed (2006)

Alternate Focus is available on the Dish Network, Free Speech TV, Channel 9415, Saturdays at 8:00pm EST and on cable stations near you. Check website for details.

Bulldozing Peace


Bulldozing Peace, a documentary that researches how Israel acquires Caterpillar bulldozers from the U.S. Government through its foreign aid or military aid and then converts them to war machines to demolish Palestinian homes and olive groves and build roads and walls on Palestinian lands. These activities are against the laws of the U.S.

The documentary also focuses on Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist who was killed by one of these bulldozers.

Alternate Focus is available on the Dish Network, Free Speech TV, Channel 9415, Saturdays at 8:00pm EST and on cable stations near you. Check website for details.

Salman Abu Sitta: The Geography of Occupation


Professor Salman H. Abu-Sitta of the London-based Palestine Land Society gives a personal account of how he became a refugee in Palestine in 1948. Using data from his research, Abu-Sitta shows how over 600 Palestinian villages were systematically depopulated by the advancing Israeli forces, leaving many others dismembered by an arbitrary cease-fire line. With maps and demographic statistics, Abu-Sitta shows that, in effect, Zionist policies were an ethnic cleansing campaign that resulted in a massive transfer of native Palestinians to the countries bordering Israel, where thousands remain within 100 miles from their original communities. Producer: Ed Sweed

The Camps: Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon


A documentary filmed in late 2005 that brings the viewer close to the living conditions and unresolved problems for Palestinian refugees in the Lebanon camps. Viewers see the camps with a focus on the issues of health, unemployment, education and the cultural memory of this community of refugees expelled in 1948 and 1967 from their homes in historic Palestine. Producer: Red Hill Films

Alternate Focus is available on the Dish Network, Free Speech TV, Channel 9415, Saturdays at 8:00pm EST and on cable stations near you. Check website for details.

A Palestinian Woman


This documentary short film brings the viewer close to the conditions isolating Palestinians within their communities. It is filmed next to the separation barrier that Israel continues to build in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Terry Boulatta, mother, teacher and community activist, shows how the 27 foot high wall surrounds her neighborhood in East Jerusalem, dividing it from the adjacent community of Abu Dis, severing the historical bonds of the two communities. The wall contributes to the suffocation of life, the latest reality for Palestinians under occupation.

Terry takes us on a half hour drive to get from one side of the wall to the other, a trip that previously took only four minutes. We learn of the terminals and checkpoints through which Palestinians must pass to travel within their own territory.

Terry speaks of the illegal settlements and land confiscations as elements of apartheid, making the settlers "the masters of the land."

Alternate Focus is available on the Dish Network, Free Speech TV, Channel 9415, Saturdays at 8:00pm EST and on cable stations near you. Visit www.alternatefocus.org for details.

The Bases Are Loaded: US Permanent Military Presence in Iraq


Will the U.S. ever leave Iraq? Official policy promises an eventual departure, while warning of the dire consequences of a "premature" withdrawal. But while Washington equivocates, facts on the ground tell another story. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail, and author Chalmers Johnson, are discovering that military bases in Iraq are being consolidated from over a hundred to a handful of "megabases" with lavish amenities. Much of what is taking place is obscured by denials and quibbles over the definition of "permanent." The Bases Are Loaded covers a wide range of topics. Gary Hart, James Goldsborough, Nadia Keilani, Raed Jarrar, Bruce Finley Kam Zarrabi and Mark Rudd all add their observations about the extent and purpose of the bases in Iraq.

Alternate Focus is available on the Dish Network, Free Speech TV, Channel 9415 and on cable stations near you. Check www.alternatefocus.org for details. Alternate Focus is a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) non-profit organization supported by viewers like you.

The Audacity of Chutzpah, Dana Milbank, WaPo

As pointed out on ICH, isn't there something wrong with the following quote?

Kurtzer attempted to defuse the Wright controversy. "For many of you who belong to synagogues and Jewish community centers, as I have all my life, we would not want to be judged by the words of rabbis who sometimes say ridiculous things," he reasoned.

The others used their time to raise doubts about Obama's fealty to Israel. "Senator Obama has said that he commits in his first year as president to meeting with President Ahmadinejad of Iran," Lewis said. McCain, Eagleburger added, "will not talk with the Syrians, will not talk with the Iranians, will not talk with Hamas and Hezbollah. . . . He isn't going to push the Israelis."

19 March 2008

History of a Conflict (On Israel/Palestine), 2006

Excellent documentary for those who lack the time to read up on this. Here's what Alternate Focus says about themselves, FWIW. Some more documentaries of theirs can be viewed here.

Info on Charles D. Smith: CV (PDF). Here's the sixth edition of his book, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History With Documents, published in 2007 (for those who have the time and inclination to read).

Mohammad, Messenger of God, 1976, with Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas

No idea whether this film is any good, but it's got two good actors. I expect a Hollywood-esque version of "the life of..." We shall see. More info on the film here.

Kucinich on the Fifth Anniversary of the Iraq War


On this, the 5th anniversary of the war against Iraq, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the leading anti-war voice in the U.S. Congress, asks all citizens to engage in a renewed quest for peace and a national civic activism to ensure that candidates -- from the Presidential race on down -- understand that ending the war is crucial to rescuing our own nation.

Here's H.R. 1234, Kucinich's plan. Don't see Saint Obama supporting it.

Excellent Bergman Interview

Click the title to see it...about a half-hour. Bergman was interviewed by another director, which makes for a really good interview!

Plan Colombia: Cashing in on the Drug War Failure, 2003

As the US media tries to whip us into a frothing hysteria over Horribly Evil Chavez ("The New Hitler," v. n.0), it might help to review what exactly the US has been doing in Colombia over the past couple of decades or so. I know, I know: who needs facts when we can blindly hate who Our Dear Leader(s) tells us to hate?

18 March 2008

Obama's Speech on Race

Watch the whole thing here. My reactions to follow, once I've seen it! Here's the transcript.

Or, if you prefer, here's CNN's version of, I assume, the full speech. (The previous link is to C-SPAN.)

First thought: why aren't other candidates asked to justify their connection to, say, the Falwells of the world, with the same force and frenzy?

Second: what is so terrible about the notion that American foreign policy set the stage for 9/11? It's called "blowback," and I don't see white scholars, left (Chalmers Johnson) or right (Michael Scheuer), getting flak for that.


Assuming these are accurate, let's take a look:

All Quotes Attributed to Pastor Jeremiah Wright

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.”

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” (Sep 2001)
True. Right-wingers like Michael Scheuer have made much the same points.

“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.” (2003)
"Gives them drugs" is a bit much (on the intentionality tip, even with CIA cocaine smuggling). All else seems right to me.

“In the 21st century, white America got a wake-up call after 9/11/01. White America and the western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring black concerns.” (magazine article)
Don't see the exact connection between blacks and Al Qaida, but if you interpret this as White West and Non-White Non-West, it's not too off. In fact, announcing a confrontational "clash of civilizations" is perfectly acceptable -- whether you agree with it or not (I don't) -- so why is this so horrifying?

“Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!…We [in the U.S.] believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.” (sermon)
First part: Incontrovertibly true. Laughable that anyone denies this. As for "how this country is still run," definitely true to some extent. As for the last part, not everyone believes this, but, ironically, the explosion of outrage over these comments, especially when compared with silence on McCain's courting of far-right White preachers who have serious political power ... well, he may have a statistically accurate point.

“Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary would never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had a people defined as a non-person.”

“Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain’t! Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty.” (sermon)
True. See welfare "reform" and crime bills from The Golden Age of Bill Clinton.

“The Israelis have illegally occupied Palestinian territories for over 40 years now. Divestment has now hit the table again as a strategy to wake the business community and wake up Americans concerning the injustice and the racism under which the Palestinians have lived because of Zionism.”
100% true.

So, what's the problem, again? Obama did the politically correct thing, maintaining his "black vote" while calming whites over racist fears. Some of the speech was appalling, e.g.:

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike. I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely -- just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed. But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country -- a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
Another disgusting point was when he stated that affirmative action and busing are "bad"; and that white "resentment" is equal to black "resentment" about slavery and Jim Crow (which is all behind us now, except for a few touch-ups). Very clever double-level speech: as I said, calm the whites, keep the blacks on your side. He's a very good politician.

Other aspects of the speech were better, I must say: "inclusive" and all that. Especially this part:
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze –-- a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns –-- this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.
* * *

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

What is the WTO? Chomsky Answers....

If you still see an error below, go here. Bottom line: the West protects or liberalizes based on its needs. The WTO is not "free trade." No one is really "free trade," outside of some libertarian think tank.

Also: the "philosophy" tag is meant seriously, as you'll see. We're talking about the further demolition of Enlightenment liberal rights-theory here.

Part 2 of Chomsky Comments on 9/11, "The War on Terror," etc.

Continued from here.

17 March 2008

Viewing 'Iraq Winter Soldier' Testimony, By Jeff Cohen

On the (predictable) media blackout on this story/event....

Clinton vs Obama on Blackwater

Winter Solider: Jeremy Scahill discusses why no presidential candidate plans on fully leaving Iraq.

Talk to Jazeera - Khaled Meshaal - 05 Mar 08

So, let's see what he has to say. The blurb:

A report released this week by the American magazine Vanity Fair disclosed a plan by the US administration to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas by arming rival Fatah forces through millions of dollars worth of weapons. This as Israel waged its deadliest round of attacks on Gaza since 2000.

Al Jazeera's Hashim Ahlbarra meets with Hamas' Khaled Meshaal, head of the group's political bureau, and asks him about the report.

In this episode of Talk to Jazeera, Mishaal talks about the leaked US plan of arming Fatah and instigating a civil war in Gaza.

He also talks about rocket fire from the coastal strip and answers questions about a possible truce with Israel.

Mishaal says the surfacing of this report vindicates Hamas' coup of Gaza, claiming that it was a pre-emptive measure forced upon them to preserve their existence and the voice of those who voted for them.

Al Jazeera also questions the leader on Hamas' logic behind rocket attacks from Gaza in light of the recent onslaught by Israel and the humanitarian loss as a result.

The Hamas leader is questioned about his links with Iran and where the group gets its backing from. Mishaal denies any funding or armament from Iran and insists that Hamas is an independent group, reliant on no one.

On talks with Israel, Mishaal says that following the "holocaust" perpetrated by the Israelis, talks are out of the question. He also says that Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president, should reassess his position on talks as well.

"I Came, I Saw, I Destroyed!" | Uri Averny

WHAT HAPPENED this week is so infuriating, so impertinent, that it stands out even in our familiar landscape of governmental irresponsibility.

On the near horizon, a de facto suspension of hostilities was taking shape. The Egyptians had made great efforts to turn it into an official cease-fire. The flame was already burning visibly lower. The launching of Qassams and Grads from the Gaza Strip into Israel had fallen from dozens a day to two or three.

And then something happened that turned the flame up high again: undercover soldiers of the Israeli army killed four Palestinians militants in Bethlehem. A fifth was killed in a village near Tulkarm.

THE MODUS OPERANDI left no doubt about the intention.

As usual, the official version was mendacious. (When the army spokesman speaks the truth, he is ashamed and immediately hurries on to the next lie.) The four, it was said, drew their weapons and endangered the life of the soldiers, who only wanted to arrest them, so they were compelled to open fire.

Anyone with half a brain knows that this is a lie. The four were in a small car on the main street of Bethlehem, the road that has joined Jerusalem and Hebron since British (or Turkish) times. They were indeed armed, but they had no chance at all of drawing their weapons. The car was simply sprayed with dozens of bullets.

That was not an attempt to make an arrest. That was an execution, pure and simple, one of those summary executions in which the Shin Bet fulfils the roles of prosecutor, judge and executioner.

This time no effort was even made to pretend that the four were about to carry out a murderous attack. It was not claimed, for example, that they had anything to do with last week's attack on the Mercaz Harav seminary, the flagship of the settlers' fleet. Actually, no such pretense could be put forward, because the most important of the four had recently given interviews to the Israeli media and announced that he was availing himself of the Israeli "pardon scheme" -- a Shin Bet program under which "wanted" militants give up their arms and undertake to cease resistance to the occupation. He was also a candidate in the last Palestinian elections.

If so, why where they killed? The Shin Bet did not hide the reason: two of the four had participated in attacks in 2001 in which Israelis were killed.

"Our long arm will get them even years later," Ehud Barak boasted on TV, "we shall get everyone with Jewish blood on his hands."

SIMPLY PUT: The Defense Minister and his men endangered today's cease-fire in order to avenge something that happened seven years ago.

It was obvious to all that the killing of Islamic Jihad militants in Bethlehem would cause the renewal of the Qassam launchings on Sderot. And so it happened.

The effect of a Qassam rocket is completely unpredictable. For the residents of Sderot, this is a kind of Israeli Roulette -- the rocket may fall in an empty field, it may fall on a building, sometimes it kills people.

In other words, according to Barak himself, he was ready to risk Jewish lives today in order to take revenge on persons who may perhaps have shed blood years ago and have since given up their armed activity.

The emphasis is on the word "Jewish". In his statement, Barak took care not to speak about persons "with blood on their hands", but about those "with Jewish blood on their hands". Jewish blood, of course, is quite different from any other blood. And indeed, there is no person in the Israeli leadership with so much blood on his hands as him. Not abstract blood, not metaphorical blood, but very real red blood. In the course of his military service, Barak has personally killed quite a number of Arabs. Whoever shakes his hand -- from Condoleezza Rice to this week's honored guest, Angela Merkel -- is shaking a hand with blood on it.

THE BETHLEHEM killing raises a number of hard questions, but with very few exceptions, the media did not voice them. They shirk their duty, as usual when it concerns "security" problems.

Real journalists in a real democratic state would have asked the following questions:

  1. Who was it who decided on the executions in Bethlehem -- Ehud Olmert? Ehud Barak? The Shin Bet? All of them? None of them?
  2. Did the decision-makers understand that by condemning the militants in Bethlehem to death, they were also condemning to death any residents of Sderot or Ashkelon who might be killed by the rockets launched in revenge?
  3. Did they understand that they were also boxing the ears of Mahmoud Abbas, whose security forces, which in theory are in charge of Bethlehem, would be accused of collaborating with the Israeli death-squad?
  4. Was the real aim of the action to undermine the cease-fire that had come about in practice in the Gaza Strip (and the reality of which was official denied both by Olmert and Barak, even while the number of rockets launched fell from dozens a day to just two or three?)
  5. Does the Israeli government generally object to a cease-fire that would free Sderot and Ashkelon from the threat of the rockets?
  6. If so, why?

The media did not demand that Olmert and Barak expose to the public the considerations that led them to adopt this decision, which concerns every person in Israel. And no wonder. These are, after all, the same media that danced for joy when the same government started an ill-considered and superfluous war in Lebanon. They are also the same media that kept silent, this week, when the government decided to hit the freedom of the press and to boycott the Aljazeera TV network, as punishment for showing babies killed during the Israeli army's recent incursion in Gaza.

But for two or three courageous journalists with an independent mind, all our written and broadcast media march in lockstep, like a Prussian regiment on parade, when the word "security" is mentioned.

(This phenomenon was exposed this week in CounterPunch by a journalist named Yonatan Mendel, a former employee of the popular Israeli web-site Walla. He pointed out that all the media, from the Channel 1 news program to the Haaretz news pages, as if by order, voluntarily use exactly the same slanted terminology: the Israeli army confirms and the Palestinians claim, Jews are murdered while Palestinians are killed or find their death, Jews are abducted while Arabs are arrested, the Israeli army always responds while the Palestinians always attack, the Jews are soldiers while Arabs are terrorists or just murderers, the Israeli army always hits high-ranking terrorists and never low-ranking terrorists, men and women suffering from shock are always Jews, never Arabs. And, as we said, people with blood on their hands are always Arabs, never-ever Jews. This, by the way, also goes for much of the foreign coverage of events here.)

WHEN THE GOVERNMENT does not disclose its intentions, we have no choice but to deduce its intentions from its actions. That is a judicial rule: when a person does something with a foreseeable result, it is assumed that he did it in order to obtain this result.

The government which decided on the killing in Bethlehem undoubtedly intended to torpedo the cease-fire.

Why does it want to do so?

There are several possible kinds of cease-fire. The most simple is the cessation of hostilities on the Gaza Strip border. No Qassams, Grads and mortar shells on the one side, no targeted assassinations, bombardments, shelling and incursion on the other side.

It is known that the army objects to that. They want to be free to "liquidate" from the air and raid on the ground. They want a one-sided cease-fire.

A limited cease-fire is impossible. Hamas cannot agree to it, as long as the blockade cuts the Strip off on all sides and turn life there into hell -- not enough medicines, not enough food, the seriously ill cannot reach appropriate hospitals, the movement of cars has come to an almost complete standstill, no imports or exports, no production or commercial activity. The opening of all border crossings for the movement of goods is, therefore, an essential component of a cease-fire.

Our government is not willing to do that, because it would mean the consolidation of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. Government sources hint that Abbas and his people in Ramallah also object to the lifting of the blockade -- a malicious rumor, because it would mean that Abbas is conducting a war against his own people. President Bush also rejects a cease-fire, even while his people pretend the opposite. Europe, as usual, is trailing along behind the US.

Can Hamas agree to a cease-fire that would apply only to the Gaza Strip but not to the West Bank? That is doubtful. This week it was proven that the Islamic Jihad organization in Gaza cannot stand idly by while its members are killed in Bethlehem. Hamas could not stand by in Gaza and enjoy the fruits of government if the Israeli army were to kill Hamas militants in Nablus or Jenin. And, of course, no Palestinian would agree that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are two separate entities.

A Gaza-only cease-fire would allow Barak to blow it to pieces at any moment by a Bethlehem-style provocation. This is how it could go: Hamas agrees to a Gaza-only cease-fire, the Israeli army kills a dozen Hamas members in Hebron, Hamas responds by launching Grad missiles at Ashkelon, Olmert tells the world: You see? The terrorist Hamas is violating the cease-fire, which proves that we have no partner!

This means that a real and durable cease-fire, which would create the necessary atmosphere for real peace negotiations, must include the West Bank, too. Olmert-Barak would not dream of agreeing to that. And as long as George Bush is around, there will be no effective pressure on our government.

A PROPOS: who is really in charge in Israel at this time?

This week's events point to the answer: the man who makes the decisions is Ehud Barak, the most dangerous person in Israel, the very same Barak who blew up the Camp David conference and persuaded the entire Israeli public that "we have no partner for peace".

2052 years ago today, on the Ides of March, Julius Caesar was assassinated. Ehud Barak sees himself as a latter-day local replica of the Roman general. He, too, would dearly want to report: "I came, I saw, I conquered."

But the reality is rather different: He came, he saw, he destroyed.

16 March 2008

Gore Vidal Speaking Yesterday in San Diego at an Antiwar Rally

The Corporation

Links to a previous page on this blog: a reminder to watch this phenomenally good documentary, if you haven't already done so. Free and legal "shareware" version by the filmmakers, btw.